Introduction to Trans Saharan Trade
Trans Saharan Trade was conducted between North Africa and West Africa. It derived its name from crossing of the Saharan desert by traders.
It derived its name from crossing of the Saharan desert by traders.
Origin of Trans Saharan Trade
It’s not clear when this trade started, merchants were travelling on horse drawn chariots between north and West Africa, due to increased aridity, the volume of trade decreased, but with the introduction of the camel from Asia the trade was revived. The Arabic who originally settled in parts of North Africa and from there they started moving south, first as traders and later as settlers.
Development of Trans Saharan Trade
The camel which was used as a means of transport made it easier to travel and conduct trade across the hot and hostile desert as the camel could withstand extremely harsh conditions.
The availability of trade commodities like, gold, ivory, slaves, leather, kola-nuts, pepper and gum were readily available in the West Africa. Similarly the commodities such as salt, horses, weapons, iron tools, cloth, silk, beads, cowries shells, glass ware and dries fruit.
Strong kingdom. There were strong kingdoms like Ghana, Mali and Songhai. The rulers ensured that the trade prospered and that trade routes were secure.
The Tuaregs. They served as guides to the caravans as they were conversant with the desert routs. They guarded the caravans against hostile desert communities who sought to rob them; they acted as middlemen and maintained oases through providing food stuffs.
Wealthy merchants. They financed the caravans as an investment that hoped would bring those profits.
Oases. This lead to growth of trans-Saharan trade through refreshment and replenishing supplies.
Islam. As Islam spread through the region, it served to unify the traders as brothers and sisters.
Organization of Trans Saharan Trade
Wealthy merchants in the North African financed the caravans. It was done where merchants gathered commodities and commits them to their employees who would organise caravans and they would commit their merchandise as loans to their traders who would then organize caravans.
The traders would collect commodities that were in demand in West African such as horses and weapons. The trader’s would team up with other traders to form a caravan. The caravans would be made up of several hundreds of people.
The traders would engage the services of the tuareg or Berber guides, also known as takshifs who would guide the caravans to the locations with the highest demand at the time.
During their trips, the traders would engage local agents who would serve as intermediaries. There were two types of trade routes used namely:
Difficulties encountered by traders of Trans Saharan Trade
Factors that lead to decline of the trans-Saharan trade
Impact of Trans Saharan Trade
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